What The T-Mobile/Orange UK Merger Means For The Mobile Web

The European Commission has approved the much-needed 50/50 JV merger of France Telecom’s Orange UK and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile UK, subject to them giving away a small chunk of radio spectrum – creating the UK’s largest mobile network, with 30 million customers, or 37 percent of the market.

The combined operator, which may get a new name after 18 months, will instantly have significant clout in mobile telephony – but what’s it mean for the fast-growing mobile internet market..?

O2 has a data network rival: Right now, O2 users are responsible for more UK mobile internet traffic than any other network (after all, it’s the largest operator and has enjoyed iPhone for some time). T-Mobile is really languishing on internet users despite a high-profile campaign. But pooling T-Mobile and Orange will mean the combined operator contributes nearly as much UK mobile data as their rival.

T-Orange takes the lion’s share of web visits. When you consider unique users to mobile internet portals, here’s where Orange/T-Mobile will pip ahead, on GSMA data…

Orange already gets roughly the same amount of traffic going through its mobile web sites as Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) and O2; when this 19 percent is combined with T-Mobile’s six percent, this will put it ahead of the rest of the pack. comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) says the combined presence will make it the third-largest mobile web property owner behind Facebook and Google (NSDQ: GOOG). Facebook in December 2009 had nearly five million unique visitors, while Google (and related sites like YouTube) had 4.6 million.

T-Mobile could finally get aboard the internet. T-Mobile has built out less of a mobile internet portal presence over the years than its competitors. This is in contrast to Orange, which owns mobile ad agency Unanimis and has strong ambitions, like other mobile operators, in monetising its traffic in the face of commoditized voice and data pricing.

Integrate or separate?. But this combo almost sounds like trying to combine Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) and Google, with Orange playing the part of Yahoo and T-Mobile playing Google: